No props, no problem—use the wall.
Most yoga instructors know how to use straps and blocks to guide students through challenging poses or to teach alignment. Some instructors, however, may not have access to props or, if they do, there may not be enough to go around. There is one piece of “equipment,” however, that often gets underused, and that’s the wall.
Total Time: approximately 60 minutes
Equipment needed: mats
MUSIC: not applicable
Have participants align their mats vertically, a few inches from the wall. Students will begin by facing the wall, standing in mountain pose. If your walls are mirrored, ask participants to close their eyes. Cue them to anchor through the four corners of their feet, roll onto the inner and outer edges, lift their arches and generally become aware of the beginning of their kinetic chain. Then have them engage the muscles of the lower legs, lift the kneecaps using the front thigh muscles, and fire up the thighs (without hyperextending the knees). Cue students to lengthen the spine and engage the abdominals, and then lift through the crown of the head, broaden the chest, and place the shoulders in their sockets.
After a few minutes, ask participants to open their eyes, turn around and stand at the top of the mat, facing into the classroom. This setup allows for a sense of community and sharing, so make sure your class has a rapport. Alternatively, have people move their mats a few feet from the wall and face away from the room, allowing for a more personal, introspective workout. Guide them through a series of sun salutations and gentle poses to warm the body. Because your participants are not necessarily facing you, you must provide accurate cues, especially regarding right and left sides.
The purpose of this series is to create more heat in the body. Students face the wall.
- Warrior 1. Engage inner and outer thighs to keep knees from crossing midline or falling out to sides. Front knee is over ankle, toes spread, glutes active. Back foot is at comfortable angle, aligned with knee and hip. (If walls are mirrored, have students study their alignment, paying particular attention to placement of knees.) Arms are lifted or in prayer position at heart center. Hold for 5–10 deep breaths.
- Warrior 3. Fall gracefully into this pose, placing fingertips against wall. Extend all the way through lifted leg into toes. Establish solid base in standing leg, and drop heart toward front of rib cage, lengthening spine and back of neck. Hold for 5–10 deep breaths.
- Tree Pose. Lift torso while drawing rear leg into tree pose. Hips are level, and foot presses on inner thigh, not against knee. Arms can be in prayer position or clasped overhead. (Modification: Bring arms straight forward to touch wall.) Hold for 10 breaths.
- Transitional Vinyasa. Return to mountain pose, inhale arms up, exhale forward fold, inhale spinal extension, exhale step back into plank, inhale hold, exhale chaturanga dandasana/ hover, inhale upward-facing dog, exhale downward-facing dog.
- Hold downward-facing dog for 5–10 breaths. Repeat series on opposite side.
This series helps students find freedom in more challenging balance poses. Students will be straddling their mats. If their feet slip, have them turn their mats horizontally and flush to the wall.
- Warrior 2 (Back to the Wall). Feel wall contact with buttocks, upper back and outer edges of arms. Check alignment of front knee, then activate muscles of lower leg and spread fingers and toes. Hold for 5–10 breaths.
- Reverse Warrior. From Warrior 2, bring rear hand down rear leg and open up chest in gentle backbend, creating space between front rib cage and hip. Keep lower body strong and rooted toward wall. Hold for 5–10 breaths.
- Extended Side Angle. Bring top arm down to rest on thigh as opposite arm extends, forming long diagonal line from fingertips down through side body and into outer heel. Hold for 5–10 breaths.
- Half Moon. From extended side angle, straighten bent leg and lift other leg and arm, balancing on block if necessary. Feel wall contact with back of head, supporting hip, back calf muscles and heel. Hold for 5–10 breaths.
- Revolved Half Moon. From half moon, slowly lower lifted arm toward floor, release at waist, open chest to wall and reach up wall with opposite arm. Engage tops of inner thighs, and fire up hamstrings and glutes of lifted leg to maintain extension. Hold for 5–10 breaths and release.
- Perform Series 1 transitional vinyasa facing either toward or away from wall (depending on your cue). Repeat series on opposite side.
This section challenges the upper body, creates core strength and rejuvenates the mind and body. Take this time to prep headstand, using the wall, in an advanced downward-facing dog position. Allow students as much time as needed, and cue appropriate modifications while they practice learning headstand in a safe, playful environment, fully supported by your instruction and the wall.
This series stretches the major muscles, cools down the body and induces relaxation. Begin with gentle wrist, shoulder and neck stretches following the Series 3 inversions. Then use the wall.
- Scoot buttocks close to wall, lie on back, and bring legs into tucked position. Allow legs to fall to one side, arms out like airplane wings, palms up, gazing away from knees. Torso is like taffy, warm and supple, as students release through waist. Hold for 5–10 breaths, then gently switch sides, allowing class to find neutral spine before dropping knees to other side. Hold for 5–10 breaths.
- Legs-up-the-Wall Straddle. Open legs into wide straddle against wall. Allow gravity to release tight spaces in inner thighs and hamstrings. Hold for 5–10 breaths.
- Legs-up-the-Wall Bound Angle. Draw heels together, dropping them toward base of torso. Use hands to press knees toward wall, or bring arms overhead to stretch. Hold for 5–10 breaths.
- Legs up the Wall. Bring legs straight up wall, maintaining slight bend in knees. If needed (e.g., if legs go numb), return to bound-angle pose or roll to one side. (Use this pose for final relaxation or as a preparation for savasana.)